In the POCHO article, he says this: “One more time, what do we need to do? BUILD OUR OWN MARKETPLACE!”
Here’s my take: It won’t work. It simply will not work. Why? Because the so-called “Latino” experience cannot be compared to the African-American experience in the United States. The “Latino” experience is different for each of us.
Latinos are culturally diverse. Yawn. Haven’t we heard this a million times already? Yet, it probably hasn’t really sunk in. A Mexican-American story will be different from a Puerto-Rican story, a Dominican story, a Colombian story, etc. It will also be different from a Mexican immigrant story, a Nuyorican story, an Ecuadorian/Irish story. Assimilation changes who we are. Migration changes who we are.
For example, Puerto-Ricans and Nuyoricans are moving in droves to Orlando, Fl. How does that change the backdrop of a story in another 10-15 years? It will not be the Nuyorican story that we have heard for several years. Although we share a native tongue, Spanish, there are many other differences to consider. So when a Latino film tries to tell THE LATINO STORY or we label a film, book, or any project a LATINO PROJECT, it’s already failed Why? It will probably not resonate with at least half the population of Latinos.
We need to stop assuming that our tastes are all the same. I guarantee that if Dennis Leoni read my novel, short stories, or watched any of my short films, he may think they’re crap. What a waste of precious time that is. Why waste time supporting something just because the filmmaker is Latino or the writer is Latino? I am a filmmaker and a writer, I’m also a novelist and playwright who creates projects with Latino characters. I usually, in most of my work, try to resolve a problem in the community. So if you’re not into that, you’re going to be disappointed. I am okay with that. When you force someone to buy something because it’s Latino, you are in essence telling them, they don’t know how to buy on their own. It’s stupid to bully anyone into buying a product because it’s a Latino product. Saying that we need to support Latino projects simply because it features a Latino actor or creator or storyline, is equivalent to voting for a President of The United States because he’s Black or White. Blind support is not good for anyone.
Instead, buy Latino product because it will enhance your life and your knowledge of what you thought life was. Buy it because it changes you. Buy a product that will entertain you for goodness sake, that makes you feel happy, that helps you understand why bad things might happen, that makes you question who you are. Movies, books, plays, and art in general, are there to help us understand life, to help us on our journey. Do not tell me that another Latino movie about drug dealers is going to enrich my life. I’m not taking my kid to that, and I sure as hell will not be giving that filmmaker my money. I have the right to choose and I don’t want to be bullied into choosing or made to feel guilty for making a different choice.
Now if the drug dealer is experiencing an inner moral conflict about his job, then maybe that will make me want to see it. But if he’s just worried about his territory, his many girls, and his money, no thanks.
I do believe however, like Dennis Leoni that we should give Latinos a chance to succeed or fail. When Latina editors and bloggers start attacking another Latina as they did Eva Longoria for producing Devious Maids, I thought, crabs. Is this that old crabs in a barrel problem? Women attacking other women, yeah, that’s going to help. It will resolve nothing. We are going after our own I believe because of a need for validation, we want the industry AKA “the Romans” to see that we are just like them. When we whine and complain about stereotypes are we really saying:
WE WANT TO BE ACCEPTED FOR WHO WE ARE AT OUR GREATEST? GIVE US THAT CHANCE. Is that being elitist? Is that forgetting where you came from? Is that dissing the humble beginnings of many Latino maids and janitors trying to achieve the American dream?
This need for validation is destroying us. We are asking a pimp to validate our worth. We need to turn this problem on its head and find a smarter solution. We need to also stop saying things like: “Is Devious Maid great? No. But it’s no worse than a lot of other crap that’s on television. And it creates a lot of jobs for Latinas, who might become bigger stars and maybe eventually get something worthwhile made. We’ll forgive Eva on this one.” Nice. Really nice. So what are you saying? How did that opinion help us evolve? You got better stuff to share? Then share it and stop going after people who are trying to make a change.
Reason number two: Stories begin with a struggle. What is the U.S. history, the beginning of the struggle, of the LATINO as a collective people? As a group, not as individual cultures. We have no group experience, hence the inability to be able to unite as one. We have no U.S. history that brings us together, the way the African Americans and American Indians have had in this country. In fact, most folks do not know much about our individual histories and tend to lump us all as immigrants. And while there is nothing wrong with being an immigrant, not every Latino comes here as an immigrant. So in the eyes of most of “middle America” we are immigrants.
The third reason, I feel, is to be more spiritually connected to the creations of our projects. We need to practice and we never get a chance to do that. Creating entertainment is an expensive endeavor. We need time to fail, we need time to figure it out, OUR WAY. Unfortunately, when something fails we all feel the pressure. We’ve been taught to write stories the way the “Romans” have. Yes, there is an artistic foundation that is universal. But I’m talking about the way a lot of us love the dialogue of our families, the hugeness of some of our families, the customs of some of our families. That’s what Tyler Perry has done. You can disagree with the level of artistic ability the man has, but one thing he has done is, sell lots of product to a diverse audience, in his voice, his way, whether Spike Lee loves it or not. He owns the movie studio. Ownership means more opportunity.
We have to get those stories out of our system, the way we see and hear them so that we have the chance to grow as artists. Don’t try so hard to be like the “Romans”. We haven’t been able to tell our individual stories and that does produce a bitter, anxious, and frustrated artist.
We can sit here and complain for years, but what will that do to resolve this problem, and more importantly, what will that do to your spirit in time? Don’t become bitter. Don’t go after someone who is trying to change the game. Just go be a game changer.